Great start for Britain’s para-equestrians at London 2012

Lee Pearson and Gentleman gave Great Britain a good result in their first team outing.
Lee Pearson and Gentleman gave Great Britain a good result in their first team outing. © FEI/Liz Gregg

It was a wet and windy start for the first equestrian events of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, but little could dampen the spirits of the riders and their teams.

There was a genuine buzz about Greenwich Park and British riders did not disappoint the enthusiastic crowds as they battled with the elements, taking pole position in both Grades II and Ib.

The spectators, many for whom this would be a first dressage experience, were sensitive to the needs of the athletes in terms of cheering and congratulated them when they saw it was safe to do so. For many of the riders, this was probably the first time they and their horses have ever competed in front of such large crowds so it truly marked the beginning of what is likely to be a unique experience.

The first two days of competition are all about the team with riders in each Grade competing in the Team test. However, as there are some riders competing here as individuals (a team is composed of a minimum of three and maximum of four individuals), they also take part in the team test but their scores do not go towards any final marks, making it a practice run of sorts.

Grade II

Natasha Baker performed a magnificent test riding Cabral to take the top spot in Grade II but as she is not in the British team – they qualified five riders so a team and one individual – her score does not count but she will definitely be one to watch in the individual medals, especially given her comfortable lead on Germany’s Britta Napel in second place on the 14-year-old Aquilina .

“This is my first Paralympics and my first outing,” Baker said. “The crowd were really great. I felt good yesterday but this morning the nerves really set in and all I wanted was to get it over and done with. Now I want to get back in the ring and do it all over again.”

Of the 11-year-old 16.2hh bay gelding Cabral, Baker said: “He has been as cool as a cucumber since we’ve arrived, eating well and everything.

“I’ve done loads of work with the psychologist to prepare for this event – same s***, different arena – just as I did for the Europeans last year, but you can’t replicate this amount of people, the noise and atmosphere.

“I needed to be the one responsible and stay cool, calm and collected. He had a few ‘looky’ moments and spooked in the 10m circle, so I gave him a pat to settle him. I loved every single second and can’t wait for Saturday; I believe we can do even better.”

Germany’s Napel won Individual Championship gold in 2008 as well as team silver, so it’s a promising result for the German team and places her amongst the favourites for the individual medals. Third place in the Grade II team test went to

Lauren Barwick and Off To Paris.
Lauren Barwick and Off To Paris. © Lindsay McCall

Lauren Barwick and Off To Paris, an 11-year-old Oldenburger by Welthit. The reigning Paralympic Freestyle champion provided Canada with some valuable points and a good test run before the Individual Championship test gets under way.

“My mare did the best she could. It’s an amazing environment and I’m very pleased,” Barwick said. “It’s very different at this Paralympics because the crowd makes a huge difference, but I’m very pleased with today.

“It is incredible, this time, at these Paralympics to have lots of supporters in the crowd and seeing so many people here watching,” said Barwick.  “The ring had a lot of energy, but given the circumstances, my horse went really well today.”

“I was really thrilled with my halts today,” Barwick added. “I was so pleased with my mare. She settled to the best of her ability with the audience in the ring, and she did her job. It was also great that I was able to leave the arena on a long rein.”

Her team-mate, Ashley Gowanlock, rode Maile, Barwick’s individual gold and silver medal partner at the 2008 Paralympic Games, to eighth place out of 15 riders in the Grade 1B Team Test.

“My partnership with Maile has only been together since June, and I am proud of how we did together in the ring today,” said Gowanlock, who was also a member of the Canadian Team at the 2008 Paralympics.

“Today’s test had no major mistakes in it, and now I know how to ride in the ring with all that atmosphere. Now we can make some adjustments for the next test.”

Andrea Taylor, National Team Coach of the Canadian Paralympic Equestrian Team, said: “I’m really pleased with how the riders are showing their skill. Lauren dealt very well with Paris’ nerves in the ring, and Ashley handled Maile’s extra energy. On we go to day two.”

Grade Ib

Demonstrating the true champion that he is, Lee Pearson and the wonderful Gentleman took pole position in the Grade Ib team test in the pouring rain, giving Great Britain its first team points. If according to Pearson “it’s an OK start”, then he very well may go on to become the most successful British Paralympian (across all sports) of all time.

Pepo Puch and Fine Feeling, second in the Grade Ib team test.
Pepo Puch and Fine Feeling, second in the Grade Ib team test. © Liz Gregg/FEI

Of the 17.1hh Gentleman, Pearson said: “He warmed up fine but when we went into the ring he heard the crowds cheering and said ‘Oh do we really have to work today?’  He was cheeky and in child mode – it was a bit like being in a car race without an accelerator.

“He used the conditions as an excuse, really. We live in Staffordshire, so he should know better. He was fine in the warm-up arena, but the rain caused him to a bit more tucked up in the arena. Basically, the engine dropped out of his backside and I had to encourage him to take the contact. It was not my worst test, but not my best. I will talk to the squad trainer; maybe we will slightly adjust the warm-up.”

Pearson held on to his lead despite making an error of course, riding the circles the wrong way round: “It was complete rider error. I have been reading the test for a week non-stop, I was reading it last night and this morning, but I normally do something stupid at Paralympic Games.”

He currently has nine gold medals, so this would entail winning the three available to him (Individual Championship, Freestyle and Team). However, there is some sturdy competition in Grade Ib, with former international event rider Pepo Puch from Austria on the 15-year-old Hanoverian Fine Feeling close on his heels, coming in second place. Third on the Grade Ib Team test scoreboard is Joann Formosa, a fairly new rider to the international scene and representing Australia for the first time at a major event. She is riding the German-bred former New Zealand hanoverian stallion Worldwide PB.

Natasha Baker and Cabral lead after the first Grade II test.
Natasha Baker and Cabral lead after the first Grade II test. © Liz Gregg/FEI

Good news

Rosie, the mount of Katja Karjalainen of Finland and Ballantine, the partner of Norway’s Anne Cecilie Ore, were the only two out of 77 horses originally inspected on Wednesday to be referred to the holding box to be re-inspected early on Thursday morning, and they both passed with flying colours.

Failing to pass the second re-inspection could have resulted in the riders not being permitted to participate, which for Norway – bronze medallists in 2008 –  would have shattered their hopes of any team medals as they would have been reduced to just two riders.

Karjalainen rode Rosie in the grade Ib Team Test competition and came a very respectable fourth, so crisis averted and she can now look forward to competing in the individual Championship test on Saturday 1 August.

Ore will be riding Ballantine in the grade III Team test on Friday.

Grades Ia, III and IV have their Team tests today which will give a provisional team score made up of the best three scores per country prior to the Individual Championship test – where the best three team scores are also added to make the final mark.

Kiwi contenders

New Zealand paralympians Anthea Gunner and Rachel Stock along with their horses Huntingdale Incognito (Mask) and Bates Rimini Park Emmerich (Ricki) are ready to go, with Gunner in Grade II and Stock in Grade III.

Australia's Joann Formosa and Worldwide PB are third after the Grade Ib team test.
Australia’s Joann Formosa and Worldwide PB are third after the Grade Ib team test. © Liz Gregg/FEI

New Zealand Paralympic equestrian manager Warrick Allan says both riders and horses are looking good, and he is confident all the hard work that has gone in is about to pay dividends.

“Working with Anthea and Rachel over the past 12 months, and knowing the work, focus and effort that has gone into this campaign, it has been a privilege to be part of,” Allan said.

Over the past couple of days, horses and riders have been allowed to train in the main competition arena, and the Kiwi team has been keenly watching the opposition.

“The standard of riding we’ve seen during training is very high and the competition is going to be fierce.”

Allan is picking the biggest competition will come from British, Canadian and German riders.

On paper, Stock is angling towards a podium finish, while Gunner has continued to improve over the year and is more than capable of notching a personal best at the games.

Paralympics New Zealand required the potential of a top six finish at London, with a view to medal in 2016 at Rio, or top three in London.

• The second phase of team competition, the Individual Championship test will take place on September 1 and 2.  The scores from the Team and Individual Championship tests will be combined to determine the overall team results and medals. Individual medals will also be awarded for Individual Championship test.

The Individual Freestyle Tests for Grades 1b and II will take place on September 3, while the final days of competition will wrap-up with the Grade 1a, III and IV Individual Freestyle tests on September 4.


Paralympic facts

· The 2012 Paralympics is the biggest ever featuring 4200 athletes from 160 countries competing in 20 sports.
· 78 combinations from around the world will compete in the equestrian events.
· The 2012 Paralympics run from August 30 through to September 4.
· Equestrian first appeared at the Paralympics in 1984 and has been represented at every Games since 1996.

Olympic Venues in London map by

Results – Grade II

Rk Bib Rider Horse Result +
1 207 Great Britain BAKER N CABRAL 76.095 +
2 208 Germany NAPEL B AQUILINA 3 72.571 +
3 205 Canada BARWICK L OFF TO PARIS 72.095 +
4 223 United States of America HART R LORD LUDGER 69.095 +
5 203 Belgium MINNECI B BARILLA 68.571 +
6 218 Netherlands VAN DE SANDE P VALENCIA Z 68.095 +
7 210 Ireland BYRNE E YOURI 67.714 +
8 212 Italy SALVADE F COME ON 67.619 +
9 209 Germany TRABERT A ARIVA-AVANTI 67.143 +
10 206 Denmark NIELSEN C LEON 66.190 +
11 217 Netherlands BOLMER G VORMAN 66.143 +
13 221 South Africa MOLLER W FIRST LADY VAN PRINS 64.429 +
14 213 Italy VERATTI S ZADOK 62.476 +
15 220 South Africa DAWSON A ROFFELAAR 62.143 +
16 219 New Zealand GUNNER A HUNTINGDALE INCOGNITO 61.905 +
17 202 Austria HALLER T HALLERS DESSINO 61.333 +
19 222 United States of America DEDRICK D BONIFATIUS 60.286 +
20 204 Brazil MELARANCI E ZABELLE 59.905 +
21 201 Australia BOWMAN G KIRBY PARK JOY 57.048 +

Results – Grade Ib

Rk Bib Rider Horse Result +
1 109 Great Britain PEARSON L GENTLEMAN 74.682 +
2 102 Austria PUCH P FINE FEELING 73.636 +
3 101 Australia FORMOSA J WORLDWIDE PB 71.955 +
4 106 Finland KARJALAINEN K ROSIE 70.909 +
5 115 United States of America WENTZ J RICHTER SCALE 70.364 +
6 108 France SALLES V MENZANA D’HULM 69.500 +
7 112 Portugal DUARTE S NEAPOLITANO MORELLA 68.364 +
8 105 Canada GOWANLOCK A MAILE 67.955 +
10 113 South Africa MILNE M SHADOW 65.818 +
12 111 Norway DOKKAN JL LEOPOLD 65.409 +
13 110 Japan ASAKAWA N ROSADO 64.455 +
14 107 Finland KIVIMAKI J GRIVIS 63.727 +
15 114 Singapore TAN M AVALON 63.364 +

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3 thoughts on “Great start for Britain’s para-equestrians at London 2012

  • August 31, 2012 at 11:56 am

    What are the definitions of the grades that the riders are in?

    • August 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      Grades 1a and 1b are for riders with the highest level of physical impairment (e.g. cerebral palsy, tetraplegia), while grade 4 is for those with the least impairment (e.g. amputees). In order to compete in PE, riders need to be classified according to their functional ability, using the FEI International Classification System.

      Athletes with physical and visual impairments are eligible to compete. There are five classes:

      Ia and Ib – athletes with the severest impairments, such as spinal cord injuries and cerebral palsy
      II – athletes with severe impairments but who retain reasonable balance and abdominal control
      III – athletes, including those who are visually impaired, with good balance, leg movement and co-ordination
      IV – ambulant athletes with either impaired vision, leg or arm function

  • September 1, 2012 at 4:19 am

    So presumably the tests are written with the degree of disability of the rider in the grades taken into account? So, the least severely disabled rider has to ride the most difficult movements? Is this so? Thanks.


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